Monday, December 12, 2011

Not everyone working in finance or banking is to blame; but we're not all equally responsible for the financial crisis either

Some of my posts might give the impression I blame all London financial workers for the financial crisis and think any employment in that sector is morally wrong. That’s not the case of course.

The top management of banks are responsible; anyone involved in futures trading in food and then buying up food supplies to drive up the price is doing something immoral; and futures trading and currency trading for profit should be banned.

Anyone taking commissions or fees to get people to take out mortgages they couldn’t afford was doing something wrong. So was anyone taking payments to buy or sell ‘collateral debt obligations’ or other dodgy financial instruments.

There are plenty of people employed in banks or as financial advisers who weren’t involved in any of this though and should not be blamed for the actions of others.

I don’t accept the argument that everyone is equally responsible for the financial crisis, or that only governments were responsible for de-regulating.

A bank manager or mortgage broker will usually be better educated and have far more inside knowledge to judge whether a mortgage or loan can be repaid than desperate people trying to get their own home or a loan to tide them over. Many of the former also took commission payments or fees on these transactions, so they knew they would benefit personally from it no matter what happened in the long run.

The top management of the banks and hedge funds and others – and their lobbyists- lobbied for deregulation and then used it to committ fraud on a massive scale; and they’ve not stopped lobbying against re-regulation.

However responsibly advising people on investments is not immoral; nor is organising loans on reasonable interest rates to people or businesses, nor working as a cashier in a bank.

The average figures for city of London financial sector pay and bonuses almost certainly hide big gaps between people at the top and bottom of many banks and other institutions too.

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